Vitamin C’s Crucial Health Role
Once again, you may not want to believe it, but here is the ugly truth about vitamin C, one of the most popular vitamin supplements sold in the world today: Rather than bolstering your body’s defenses against the common cold and other maladies, once it is in your body it becomes no more than just another toxin that your organs and immune system must flush out of your system. That is because the vast majority of vitamin C sold and consumed in the world is synthetic.
Vitamin C is one of the most unstable vitamins, easily destroyed by oxidation through exposure to light or heat. Ascorbic acid is only the “antioxidant wrapper” portion of vitamin C, but this is the form most often sold to consumers. In and of itself, ascorbic acid is not able to supply your body with this essential nutrient in a complete form. Ascorbic acid protects the functional parts of the vitamin from rapid oxidation or breakdown. Vitamin C is vital for healing infections, wounds, and burns, and for the formation of collagen, a protein essential for healthy skin, bones, cartilage, teeth, and gums.
Vitamin C also helps to produce the neurotransmitters noradrenaline (which regulates blood flow) and serotonin (which promotes sleep as well as calm, joyful, and productive states of mind). Vitamin C also improves iron uptake because the iron present in many plant foods (known as non-haem iron) is absorbed more efficiently when these foods are accompanied by vitamin C-rich foods or a whole-food-based vitamin C supplement. In addition to ascorbic acid, real vitamin C includes mineral cofactors and the bioflavonoids hesperidin, rutin, quercitin, and tannin along with other naturally occurring components. If any one of these components is missing, there is no vitamin C activity, resulting in inadequate supplementation that could result in any number of such deficiency-related illnesses as bleeding, premature aging of organs including the skin, nerve damage, loss of sexual function, and impaired eyesight.
Most ascorbic acid (more than 95 percent) is just a chemical copy of naturally occurring ascorbic acid, which itself is still only a fraction of the actual whole vitamin C. Real vitamin C can only come from a complete full-spectrum whole food matrix; fractionated chemical ascorbic acid, on the other hand, is just another toxin to your body. Most ascorbic acid, manufactured by a few of the world’s largest drug manufacturers, is usually fermented from cornstarch, corn sugar, and volatile acids. Most U.S. vitamin manufacturing companies buy the bulk ascorbic acid from these facilities then make their own formulations, labels, and claims, even though it likely originated form the same manufacturer. All of them, however, have the same ill effects.
Bioflavonoids, also known as flavonoids, are a group of beneficial phytochemicals. In addition to being antioxidants, they promote arterial health (quercetin), hormonal balance (isoflavones), and the health of the retina (anthoycyanosides). Bioflavonoids, which are always found as part of the naturally occurring vitamin C matrix, are the natural pigments in fruits and vegetables. Some researchers believe that bioflavonoids, also referred to as vitamin P, help maintain capillaries, the microscopic blood vessels in the body that allow oxygen, hormones, nutrients, and antibodies to pass from the body’s bloodstream into individual cells. If capillary walls are too fragile, they will allow blood to drain out of the vessels and into the cells. The result of this is easy bruising, brain and retinal hemorrhages, bleeding gums, and other abnormalities.
Bioflavonoids have been shown to aid in the clotting of blood. This can be helpful in treating phlebitis and other clotting deficiencies such as hemochromatosis. Many bioflavonoids prevent the cellular damage caused by free radicals, the unstable molecules formed when the body burns oxygen. Some reports show that bioflavonoids enhance the antioxidant action of certain nutrients as well.
Researchers have discovered that ascorbic acid is credited with some of the functions that actually come from bioflavonoids.
The critical point here is that ascorbic acid and bioflavonoids work together to enhance the immune system. Many laboratory studies show how bioflavonoids stop or slow the growth of malignant cells and protect against cancer-causing substances invading the heart and blood cells. Bioflavonoids also act as natural antibiotics, destroying bacteria present in food, which often cause food-borne infections. Bioflavonoids are also now being studied for general medical uses such as preventing bruising and bleeding abnormalities.
Other naturally occurring nutrients associated with whole vitamin C are tannins and ellagic acid. Tannis are excellent antioxidants, now being promoted by the health industry. Tannis, often recognized as pigments, are flavonoid-type compounds that have an action similar to bioflavonoids. High tannin tea has been shown to reduce the need for blood removal from people with iron overload, or hemochromatosis. Hemochromatosis is a genetic defect that causes uncontrolled absorption of iron. Affecting one person in 200, iron overload is a major factor in congestive heart failure, a rapidly growing burden on the healthcare system.
Tannins, also called catechins, which are polyphenols, appear to be one of the most potent therapeutic plant-derived, naturally occurring chemicals. Aside form their antiseptic and antioxidant properties, they are able to form complexes with other molecules to detoxify the system.
Ellagic acid is a compound found in certain fruits such as red raspberries and Amla berries. Research in cell cultures and lab animals has found that ellagic acid may slow the growth of some tumors caused by certain carcinogens. Although this is promising, at this time there is no reliable evidence from human studies showing that ellagic acid in any form can prevent or treat cancer. Further research is needed to determine what benefits it may have.
It is the ellagitannins that are present in red raspberries and other fruits such as Amla or Indian gooseberry. Ellagic acid may act as a scavenger to “bind” cancer-causing chemicals, rendering them inactive. It appears to disarm chemicals that cause mutations in bacteria. In addition, ellagic acid may help prevent binding of carcinogens to DNA and reduce the incidence of cancer in cultured human cells exposed to these toxins.